Constitution and Government:
Belize achieved full independence on September 21, 1981. It is now a member of the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Organization of American States and the Association of Caribbean States. Diplomatic relations have been established with many countries. Belize is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and related institutions.
The Government of Belize is operated on the principles of Parliamentary Democracy based on the Westminster System. The country is a sovereign, democratic state.
A Prime Minister and Cabinet make up the Executive Branch, while a 31-member elected House of Representatives and a twelve-member appointed Senate form a bi-cameral legislature.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is the constitutional Head of State. She is represented in Belize by a Governor-General, who must be a Belizean.
The Cabinet consists of a Prime Minister, other Ministers and Ministers of State who are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, the person commanding the support of the majority party in the House of Representatives. Six Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, three on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, one on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, one on the advice of the Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Belize Business Bureau and one on the advice of the National Trade Union Congress and Civil Society Steering Committee.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate are elected either from among the members of these Houses (providing they are not ministers) or from among persons who are not members of either House.
Elections and Political Parties:
General Elections are held at intervals of not longer than five years. The voting age is 18. The Prime Minister has the right to advise the Governor-General to dissolve the National Assembly and so determine the date of the general elections.
The most recent elections took place on 7th February 2008. The United Democratic Party (UDP) won 25 of the 31 seats in the House of Representatives; the remaining six were won by the People’s United Party (PUP). A recent re-districting created two more constituencies, increasing the number of seats from 29 to 31.
Administration and Local Government:
There are six administrative districts: Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo. With the abolition of the posts of District Officers, the district administration is now jointly run by a number of Government functionaries, namely Finance Officers, the Officer commanding the District Police and the Heads of various Government departments based in the districts.
Each district town has a locally elected Town Council of seven members. The Cayo district has two Town Councils, namely, San Ignacio and Benque Viejo.
Belize City is administered by a nine-member City Council. There is also a Town Council in the Belize District, namely San Pedro Town Council in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
The Capital city of Belmopan is administered by the Belmopan City Council. A Village council Act (SI No. 100 of 2003) was enacted to formally establish Village Councils.